After another break in play — this time 10 days — Seattle Reign FC (2-1-0) returns to action on Saturday, continuing their road journey in a match against the Orlando Pride (1-2-1). Kicking off at 4:30 PM PT, the game will stream on go90.com and the go90 app.
Across the league, numerous international players return to their clubs this weekend after spending most of April competing in 2019 World Cup qualifiers. That includes Rumi Utsugi, Naho Kawasumi, Lydia Williams, and Steph Catley for Reign FC, who are all expected to be available for Saturday’s match after closing out the Asian Cup and qualifying for the World Cup. While Utsugi and Kawasumi featured in Seattle’s home opener, the Australian internationals missed all of pre-season and the first three games of the season, joining their club teammates for the first time last weekend.
“I’m excited to have them back,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said ahead of this weekend’s match. “I still don’t know how much and how many of them are going to play, but I’m definitely looking into integrating them as much as possible. They’re quality players and they will help us get better.”
Catley, in particular, could be a huge boost for Seattle. She’s a dynamic attacking left back — one of the best in the world — who should be able to mix up the Reign FC attack if she features in the game. Catley had the most touches on the team when she played in Orlando last season, a stat that bodes well for a Seattle attack that struggled against the North Carolina Courage in their last match. With Megan Rapinoe still out with a hamstring strain, the club could use some of Catley’s creativity, speed, and crossing.
Like Seattle, Orlando also will see an influx of talent on its roster in the form of returning international players. Australian players Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond have now joined the squad, while Marta, Monica, and Poliana of Brazil return to the Pride as champions of the 2018 Copa América Femenina, South America’s World Cup qualifier.
The new arrivals will be beneficial to an Orlando Pride squad that has struggled to find goals, and has shown some shaky moments on defense early on in the season. The Pride have scored only 3 goals in 4 matches, with one of those coming from a penalty kick.
Marta might be the most influential among the group — she will be a huge spark in the attack. Alex Morgan had one of her best ever club seasons last year, and Marta’s partnership was a big reason for that. In Orlando’s matches without Marta this season, Morgan has struggled to make an impact — despite the fact that she’s looked stronger than ever with the U.S. Women’s National Team this year.
Emily van Egmond — who briefly played with Seattle in 2013 — will also provide some bite and possession through the midfield. She joins a host of other former Reign FC players on Orlando’s roster: Haley Kopmeyer, Christine Nairn, Carson Pickett, and Sydney Leroux. The biggest question about van Egmond’s impact is how much Tom Sermanni will use her and his other returning players in their first match back with the Pride. He certainly needs them, but may be looking more to the long term and opt to ease players into the squad.
Despite their early struggles, there is a reason Orlando qualified for the playoffs last season. This is a dangerous and well coached team.
“They can score goals. They can make things happen from nothing. They’re an organized team. Tom [Sermanni] has done a tremendous job,” said Andonovski. “Unfortunately for us, we’re the first team to face them when everyone is back, but at the same time we have most of our players back, if not everyone.”
Saturday’s match will be a good test for Reign FC, who will continue their four-game road adventure the following weekend with their first matchup of the season against the Portland Thorns. A strong performance in Orlando, where the home side has been dominant, would be a huge momentum boost for Seattle heading into a rivalry match.
Orlando Pride: OUT: Camila (right knee surgery – D45)
Seattle Reign: OUT: Jaycie Johnson (right knee sprain – D45), Megan Rapinoe (left hamstring strain)
How to Watch
When: Saturday, April 28, 2018, 4:30 PM PT
Where: Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, FL
Streaming (U.S.): go90.com, go90 app (iOS/Android)
Streaming (International): NWSLSoccer.com, NWSL (iOS/Android)
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